Rio de Janeiro is building a Formula 1 track to replace Autodromo José Carlos Pace (aka Interlagos) as the host the Brazilian Grand Prix and the new venue it is likely to be named after the late Ayrton Senna.
While most media (including this website) reported that the Rio race will happen in 2020, there is a snag, namely that Interlagos has a contract to the end of that year and only now has the go-ahead been given to proceed with the construction thereof.
Globo report that the new track will be built in Rio de Janeiro on ground ceded by the Army in the Deodoro area and will be named after the Brazilian F1 legend: Autodromo Ayrton Senna.
The announcement was made by Mayor Marcello Crivella, during a ceremony that marked the signing of an agreement to use the site, who also indicated that the Senna name suggestion was made by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
He is on record saying, “I did not choose Rio, I chose Brazil. It was Formula 1 that chose to return to Rio de Janeiro,”
And this week the President declared, “A new motor-racing track is going to be built. The construction will take six to seven months and the Brazil Grand Prix will be held in Rio de Janeiro next year.”
Also present at the signing ceremony was State Governor Wilson Witzel who confirmed that the construction of a new Rio racetrack was essential due to the real threat of F1 ending their long association with Brazil at the end of the contract with São Paulo next year.
Interlagos has become increasingly unsuitable to host races of F1 magnitude as urban sprawl has reached the track perimeters, making access difficult and dangerous as gangs target fans, team personnel and even drivers.
Recent races have done little to promote the image of the country due to fallout from reports of attacks on F1 personnel and the high risk of attending the race weekend as an F1 fan from out of town.
The Globo report adds that in November 2018, Mayor Crivella and Governor Witzel met with F1 CEO Chase Carey who, after a positive meeting, sped up negotiations so as to allow for the construction of the race track to begin.
The Brazilian Grand Prix was held on ten occasions at Autodromo Nelson Piquet in Jacarepaguá, on the western outskirts of Rio, until 1989, as well as Indycar races, before the circuit land was used for the construction of the Olympic Park in 2012.
In recent weeks, Liberty Media sent a letter to Bolsonaro, Crivella and Witzel confirming mutual desire to hold the Brazilian Grand Prix in the coastal city.
On Wednesday, the three signed a term of commitment to trigger the construction of the race track in the Deodoro area where a race in 2020 is supposedly on the President’s agenda, but this appears a tad ambitious as the construction of the venue is unlikely to be completed within a year.
Furthermore, the F1 contract with Interlagos that runs until the end of next year is another stumbling block to overcome, however it would not be inconceivable that the current contract holders strike a deal to transfer next year’s race to the new venue.
However, 2021 looks to be the most realistic and likely time for Rio de Janeiro’s Autodromo Ayrton Senna to host the Brazilian Grand Prix in the near future.